In early August 2017, FBI agents in Las Vegas arrested 23-year-old U.K. resident Marcus Hutchins on suspicion of authoring and/or selling “Kronos,” a strain of malware designed to steal online banking credentials. Hutchins was virtually unknown to most in the security community until May 2017, when a British newspaper revealed him as the “accidental hero” who inadvertently halted the global spread of WannaCry, a ransomware contagion that had taken the world by storm just days before.
Relatively few knew it before his arrest, but Hutchins for many years authored the popular cybersecurity blog MalwareTech. When this fact became more widely known — combined with his hero status for halting Wannacry — a great many MalwareTech readers quickly leapt to his defense to denounce his arrest. They reasoned that the government was overstepping on flimsy evidence, noting that Hutchins has worked tirelessly to expose cybercriminals and their malicious tools. To date, some 226 supporters have donated more than $14,000 to his defense fund.
At first, I did not believe the charges against Hutchins would hold up under scrutiny. But as I began to dig deeper into the history tied to dozens of hacker forum pseudonyms, email addresses and domains he apparently used over the past decade, a very different picture began to emerge.
In this post, I will attempt to describe and illustrate more than three weeks’ worth of connecting the dots from what appear to be Hutchins’ earliest hacker forum accounts to his real-life identity. The clues suggest that Hutchins began developing and selling malware in his mid-teens — only to later develop a change of heart and earnestly endeavor to leave that part of his life squarely in the rearview mirror.
In early October, news leaked out of Russia that authorities there had arrested and charged the malware kingpin known as “Paunch,” the alleged creator and distributor of the Blackhole exploit kit. Today, Russian police and computer security experts released additional details about this individual, revealing a much more vivid picture of the cybercrime underworld today.
The author of Blackhole, an exploit kit that booby-traps hacked Web sites to serve malware, has done so well for himself renting his creation to miscreants that the software has emerged as perhaps the most notorious and ubiquitous crimeware product in the Underweb. Recently, however, the author has begun buying up custom exploits to bundle into a far more closely-held and expensive exploit pack, one that appears to be fueling a wave of increasingly destructive online extortion schemes.
The U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning about an uptick in online extortion scams that impersonate the FBI and frighten people into paying fines to avoid prosecution for supposedly downloading child pornography and pirated content. This post offers an inside look at one malware gang responsible for orchestrating such scams.
In an alert published last week, the FBI said that The Internet Crime Complaint Center — a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center — was “getting inundated with complaints” from consumers targeted or victimized by the scam, which uses drive-by downloads to hijack host machines. The downloaded malware displays a threatening message (see image to the right) and blocks the user from doing anything else unless he pays the fine or finds a way to remove the program.
If your computer is running Java and you have not updated to the latest version, you may be asking for trouble: A powerful exploit that takes advantage of a newly-disclosed security hole in Java has been rolled into automated exploit kits and is rapidly increasing the success rates of these tools in attacking vulnerable Internet users.
Anyone who’s run a Web site is probably familiar with the term “malvertising,” which occurs when crooks hide exploits and malware inside of legitimate-looking ads that are submitted to major online advertising networks. But there’s a relatively new form of malware-based advertising that’s gaining ground — I’m calling it “crimevertising” for lack of a better term — that involves running otherwise harmless ads for illicit services inside of commercial crimeware kits.
At its most basic, crimevertising has been around for many years, in the form of banner ads on underground forums that hawk everything from hacking services to banking Trojans and crooked cashout services. More recently, malware authors have started offering the ability to place paid ads in the administrative panesl that customers use to control their botnets. Such placements allow miscreants an unprecedented opportunity to keep their brand name in front of the eyeballs of their target audience, and for hours on end.
An exploit for a recently disclosed Java vulnerability that was previously only available for purchase in the criminal underground has now been rolled into the open source Metasploit exploit framework. Metasploit researchers say the Java attack tool has been tested… Read More »
Criminals have developed a component of the ZeuS Trojan designed to run on Google Android phones. The new strain of malware comes as security experts are warning about the threat from mobile malware that may use tainted ads and drive-by downloads.
Researchers at Fortinet said the malicious file is a new version of “Zitmo,” a family of mobile malware first spotted last year that stands for “ZeuS in the mobile.” The Zitmo variant, disguised as a security application, is designed to intercept the one-time passcodes that banks send to mobile users as an added security feature. It masquerades as a component of Rapport, a banking activation application from Trusteer. Once installed, the malware lies in wait for incoming text messages, and forwards them to a remote Web server.
I have long urged readers who have no need for Java to remove the program, because failing to keep this software updated with the latest security patches exposes users to dangerous, ubiquitous attacks. In this blog post, I’ll show readers how attacks against Java vulnerabilities have fast emerged as the top moneymaker for authors of the best-selling “exploit kits,” commercial software designed to be stitched into hacked or malicious sites to exploit a variety of Web-browser vulnerabilities.
Take one look at the newest kit on the block – “Blackhole” — and it is plain that Java vulnerabilities continue to be give attackers the most mileage and profit, and have surpassed Adobe flaws as the most successful exploit vehicles.